Valley of Fire, Nevada
Explained by the geological processes of Noah’s Flood
Published: 1 February 2020 (GMT+10)
Today’s feedback comes from K.W. of Nevada who wants to understand a geologic feature near where they live.
I am trying to find some information on the geology of the Valley of Fire north of Lake Mead in Nevada from a creation science point of view. Can you help? My Googling has turned up nothing so far.
CMI’s geologist Dr Tas Walker responds:
The Valley of Fire (figure 1) is a remarkable site, and we will be pleased to describe its features from a creation point of view. We often receive requests such as yours and research an area to interpret it. For example, we did an article on Maui in the Hawaiian Islands. In that article we explain how we do the research so that others, like yourself, can do the same thing for other sites.
What has already been reported?
The first step is to find out what mainstream geologists have reported about the site. Then it is a matter of reinterpreting the geology within a biblical perspective, which can be done initially by applying an interpretation chart (or table). There is a good chart in the article about Wilpena Pound, Australia, which allows a preliminary reinterpretation of the mainstream geological information. I’ve reproduced this as figure 2. The above two articles will help you see things from a creation perspective and be able to apply that perspective to the area you are interested in. However, often there are complications and inconsistencies that arise, which we will see in this case, and which need to be resolved.
I Googled Valley of Fire and found an article on Wikipedia.1 Although Wikipedia is not the most soundly based source and is written from a long-age evolutionary perspective, it is a helpful first stop and can give useful leads for further investigation. Google will allow you to find many other helpful articles too.
From the Wikipedia article I discovered that the Valley of Fire is located 80 km (50 miles) northeast of Las Vegas (figure 3) at an elevation between 402–917 m (1,320–3,009 feet). The name Valley of Fire comes from the red sandstone formations in the valley, called the Aztec Sandstone, which often appear to be on fire beneath the rays of the sun. We can appreciate that all this information is straightforward and factual because it can be confirmed by observations.
However, it’s when we encounter the geology of the valley that we need to reinterpret the information. The first geological information provided is that the sandstone was deposited 150 million years ago. This is something that cannot be established by observation—no one was present to observe the sand being deposited. In other words, it is speculation based on a belief system, and needs to be reinterpreted.
Consulting the reinterpretation chart of figure 2 we can see that a “uniformitarian age” of 150 million years is somewhere around the Jurassic. Alongside this age the green arrow indicates it is towards the top of “Floodwaters rising”. In other words, the sandstone was deposited during Noah’s Flood some 4,500 years ago as the floodwaters were rising and as they were nearing their peak. On this diagram, notice the blue arrow, which indicates that after the Cretaceous the floodwaters were falling. Also notice that there is some overlap on the arrows to indicate that the exact location (e.g. between rising and falling) can vary depending on the area we are considering.
Another geological feature mentioned in the above Wikipedia article is that the Aztec Sandstone formed from shifting sand dunes. There is also a Wikipedia article about the Aztec Sandstone,2 which says that the formation is 640–670 m (2100–2500 feet) thick, which is huge, and consists primarily of aeolian sand, meaning it was deposited from the action of wind. The size of the formation is based on observation, but the idea that it was deposited by wind is unobserved speculation. This leads to an inconsistency that is not uncommon when converting mainstream geological interpretations into biblical ones. It does not make sense that this formation was deposited by wind if it was deposited during the Flood as the floodwaters were approaching their peak.
These sorts of problems generally arise because of the way uniformitarian geologists interpret the rocks. In this case, the sandstone beds are very large in size and greatly distorted in places (see figure 4 and figure 1). Long-age geologists will automatically assume that these beds were deposited by wind, rather than by water, because it would take a flood of biblical proportions to deposit such huge dunes from water. Within their philosophy such a process is too big. Remember that no one saw the sand being deposited, so the interpretation is speculation.
However, this is no problem for a biblical interpretation because we would expect to see lots of evidence of large-scale watery catastrophe. And that is what we see. The enormous beds of sandstone were deposited by great volumes of flowing floodwaters. The Wikipedia article on the Valley of Fire reports that other important rock formations in the area include limestones, shales, and conglomerates (composed of large rocks). All these were deposited as the waters of Noah’s Flood were rising.
The Wikipedia article for the Valley of Fire has a short section on the geology, which basically talks about how the valley formed (rather than how the sandstone was deposited). It says that the present landscape was formed by “complex uplifting and faulting of the region followed by extensive erosion.” This is easy to picture from a biblical perspective. The uplift occurred in the second half of Noah’s Flood (figure 2 after the Cretaceous), well after the sediments were deposited. Continental uplift was relative to the ocean basins sinking. Sinking ocean basins provide space for the waters to flow off the continent, while Noah and his family were still in the Ark on the Mountains of Ararat waiting for the water to go down. In summary, the uplift caused the water to flow off the continent into the ocean, and it caused faulting of the rocks.
The floodwaters on the continent eroded the surface while they covered the area and then as they flowed off into the oceans. The rough floor and jagged walls of the park were created by faulting and fracturing of the area as the continent was uplifted. The landscape was carved as the floodwaters receded. In other words, water erosion in the second ‘half’ of Noah’s Flood created the present landscape.
Within a larger context
The Valley of Fire is not far from Grand Canyon, so we would expect its formation to be linked with the geological processes that formed the Canyon. Some fascinating research (see Colorado Plateau sandstones derived from the Appalachians?) suggests that the sand for some of the rocks in the area was derived from the Appalachians on the eastern side of the continent. This hints at the action of great volumes of water at that time which transported the sediment thousands of kilometres across the continent into the area.
Another article (Startling evidence for Noah’s Flood) describes footprints and sand ‘dunes’ in a Grand Canyon rock formation called the Coconino Sandstone. This deposit is classified as Permian, which, from figure 2, is slightly earlier than the assigned ‘age’ of the Aztec Sandstone. The interpretation of the Coconino formation is like that of the Aztec Sandstone. That is, mainstream geologists interpret them as wind deposited. However, the above article presents a closer inspection that shows the sandstone was deposited by water and not wind. Interestingly, both the Coconino Sandstone and the Aztec Sandstone preserve vertebrate trackways, the former of land animals and the latter of pterosaurs.
The erosion of the vast area was a significant process, and this article on the formation of Grand Canyon describes how it occurred in the second half of Noah’s Flood as the floodwaters were receding. Some very large landscape features were formed at this time including Horse Shoe Bend in Arizona. This erosion means that much more sediment had been deposited on top of the Aztec Sandstone as the floodwaters were rising, likely more Jurassic sediments and Cretaceous ones as well. But these were eroded away by the receding floodwaters.
In short, the huge sandstone deposits at the Valley of Fire were deposited as the waters of Noah’s Flood were rising. More sediments were deposited on top, but then the landscape was eroded by the floodwaters when they covered the whole continent, and as they receded into the oceans.
I hope this is useful to you. You can find out lots more by searching creation.com with suitable key words.
All the best,
Dr Tasman Walker
Scientist, Writer, Speaker